SCC piano recital showcases local virtuosos

  • By Dale Burrows For The Enterprise
  • Tuesday, March 16, 2010 9:47pm

“Classical Kaleidoscope” hit me as a strange, even pretentious title for a piano recital last weekend when Shoreline Community College’s Music Department featured piano virtuosos, Jesina Byington and Tamara Friedman. I was way off.

After hearing these two put their stylized touch to masterpieces spanning three centuries, from Scarlatti’s Baroque to Rachmaninoff’s synthesis of Classicism and Romanticism, fragments of colored glass rearranging in ever-changing patterns is a perfect description of the overall impression they registered.

Solo and in duet, Byington and Friedman ranged from contemplative and strictly structured to passionate and free. The effects were natural, seemingly uninhibited, always disciplined and authoritative and entirely their own.

A light, bright, happy, brisk-like-Springtime romp through Mozart’s Sonata in C made manifest this constant source of amazement’s talent for melody at age nine.

Beethoven’s lonely, valiant struggle to maintain sanity and meaning in his later years when he was totally deaf came through in his Bagatelles, Opus 126. Friedman interpreted it with a moving display of empathy bordering on rapture.

The finely sensitized Romanticism of Schuman’s Widmung as arranged by Liszt was represented without apology by Byington in perfect sync. This lady knows what it is to feel deeply.

On the other hand, Byington also knows what it is to think too much. The brooding, self-torturing obsession with perfection came through in Rachmaninoff’s Etude Tableau in E-flat Major. Some pianists fake it. Byington’s slant was the real thing.

Friedman’s slant on Scarlatti’s Sonatas was sheer brilliance. Baroque yearning for the freedom to express feelingly without so many formal requirements made itself painstakingly evident. Friedman’s technical skill was particularly dazzling here.

“Why did it take me so long to discover him?” was Byington’s question to herself, she said, when introducing her version of Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words.” The way she performed it, the lyrical qualities of this composition came out so like a kaleidoscope of tonal colors as to defy definition. In performance, it enchanted.

Excerpts from Faure’s Dolly Suite rounded out everything. Faure wrote the Suite for the daughter of his mistress. He cared for Dolly. Byington and Friedman cared for those eighty-eight keys they sat down to. And, between the three of them, Faure, Byington and Frideman, those keys were used to unlock doors for the rest of us. Sensational recital.

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